Common Names: Ansu apricot, Siberian apricot, Tibetan apricot
Habitat:Prunus Armeniaca is considered native range is somewhat uncertain due to its extensive prehistoric cultivation. Although formerly supposed to come from Armenia, where it was long cultivated, hence the name Armeniaca, there is now little doubt that its original habitat is northern China, the Himalaya region and other parts of temperate Asia. It is cultivated generally throughout temperate regions. Introduced into England, from Italy, in Henry VIII’s reign.
Prunus armeniaca is a small tree, 8–12 m (26–39 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 40 cm (16 in) in diameter and a dense, spreading canopy. The leaves are ovate, 5–9 cm (2.0–3.5 in) long and 4–8 cm (1.6–3.1 in) wide, with a rounded base, a pointed tip and a finely serrated margin. The flowers are 2–4.5 cm (0.8–1.8 in) in diameter, with five white to pinkish petals; they are produced singly or in pairs in early spring before the leaves. The fruit is a drupe similar to a small peach, 1.5–2.5 cm (0.6–1.0 in) diameter (larger in some modern cultivars), from yellow to orange, often tinged red on the side most exposed to the sun; its surface can be smooth (botanically described as: glabrous) or velvety with very short hairs (botanically: pubescent). The flesh is usually firm and not very juicy. Its taste can range from sweet to tart. The single seed is enclosed in a hard, stony shell, often called a “stone”, with a grainy, smooth texture except for three ridges running down one side….....CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES
Edible Uses:Fruits are eaten raw or cooked or dried for later use. The best forms are soft and juicy with a delicious rich flavour. Wild trees in the Himalayas yield about 47.5kg of fruit per year.The fruit of the wild form contains about 6.3% sugars, 0.7% protein, 2.5% ash, 2.5% pectin. There is about 10mg vitamin C per 100g of pulp. The fruit is about 5cm in diameter and contains one large seed. Seed – raw or cooked. Bitter seeds should be eaten in strict moderation, but sweet ones can be eaten freely. The bitter seeds can be used as a substitute for bitter almonds in making marzipan etc. An edible gum is obtained from the trunk. The seed contains up to 50% of an edible semi-drying oil
The Italian liqueur amaretto and amaretti biscotti are flavoured with extract of apricot kernels rather than almonds. Oil pressed from these cultivar kernels, and known as oil of almond, has been used as cooking oil. Kernels contain between 2.05% and 2.40% hydrogen cyanide, but normal consumption is insufficient to produce serious effects.
Landscape Uses:Specimen. Requires a well-drained moisture retentive fertile soil in a warm sunny position. Succeeds in light shade but fruits better in a sunny position. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone. Prefers some chalk in the soil but is apt to become chlorotic if too much is present. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 to 7.5. Dislikes clay soils. Intolerant of saline soils. Trees drop their fruit buds if there is a summer drought. The apricot is widely cultivated for its edible fruit in temperate areas that have long hot summers, there are many named varieties. The tree is perfectly hardy in Britain but it usually flowers very early in the spring and the flowers are then liable to be destroyed by frosts. It really requires a more continental climate (with its clearly defined seasons) than it gets in Britain. However, if given the benefit of a south or west facing wall and some protection from frosts when it is in flower, reasonable crops can usually be produced in southern England. The plants are self-fertile, but hand pollination would be advisable since they are normally flowering before many pollinating insects are active. In Britain apricots are usually grown on plum rootstocks, ‘St. Julien A’ is the most widely used. The dwarfing rootstock ‘Pixie’ is also a possibility, but this must be double worked with ‘St. Julien A’ because it is incompatible with apricots. Any pruning should be carried out in the summer to allow rapid healing and therefore less risk of infection. Oats should not be grown near apricots because their roots have an antagonistic effect on the roots of the apricot. Tomatoes and potatoes are also bad companions for apricots. If nasturtiums (Tropaeoleum spp) are grown under apricots they will make the fruit less palatable to insects, though this is not detectable by the human palate. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus. Special Features: Edible, Not North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Fragrant flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms.
Seed – requires 2 – 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame. Difficult. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Difficult. Layering in spring.
Constituents: Prunus Armeniaca yield by expression 40 to 50 per cent. of a fixed oil, similar to that which occurs in the sweet almond and in the peach kernel, consisting chiefly of Olein, with a small proportion of the Glyceride of Linolic acid, and commonly sold as Peach Kernel oil (Ol. Amygdae Pers.). From the cake is distilled, by digestion with alcohol, an essential oil (0l. Amygdae Essent. Pers.) which contains a colourless, crystalline glucoside, Amygdalin, and is chemically identical with that of the bitter almond. The essential oil is used in confectionery and as a culinary flavouring.
Apricot fruits contain citric and tartaric acid, carotenoids and flavonoids. They are nutritious, cleansing and mildly laxative. They are a valuable addition to the diet working gently to improve overall health. The salted fruit is antiinflammatory and antiseptic. It is used medicinally in Vietnam in the treatment of respiratory and digestive diseases. Antipyretic, antiseptic, emetic, ophthalmic. The flowers are tonic, promoting fecundity in women. The bark is astringent. The inner bark and/or the root are used for treating poisoning caused by eating bitter almond and apricot seeds (which contain hydrogen cyanide). Another report says that a decoction of the outer bark is used to neutralize the effects of hydrogen cyanide. The decoction is also used to soothe inflamed and irritated skin conditions. The seed is analgesic, anthelmintic, antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, antitussive, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, pectoral, sedative and vulnerary. It is used in the treatment of asthma, coughs, acute or chronic bronchitis and constipation. The seed contains ‘laetrile’, a substance that has also been called vitamin B17. This has been claimed to have a positive effect in the treatment of cancer, but there does not at present seem to be much evidence to support this. The pure substance is almost harmless, but on hydrolysis it yields hydrocyanic acid, a very rapidly acting poison – it should thus be treated with caution. In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being
Apricot oil is used as a substitute for Oil of Almonds, which it very closely resembles. It is far less expensive and finds considerable employment in cosmetics, for its softening action on the skin. It is often fraudulently added to genuine Almond oil and used in the manufacture of soaps, cold creams and other preparations of the perfumery trade.
Adhesive; Dye; Gum; Oil; Oil; Wood.
An edible semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed. Used for lighting. The oil has a softening effect on the skin and so it is used in perfumery and cosmetics, and also in pharmaceuticals. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit. Wood – handsome, hard, durable. Agricultural implements etc
In Armenia, the wood of the apricot tree is used for making wood carvings such as the duduk, which is a popular wind instrument in Armenia and is also called the apricot pipe. Several hand-made souvenirs are also made from the apricot wood.
Known Hazards: This species produces hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. Usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm, any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death. Oral doses of 50g of hydrogen cyanide can be fatal (= 30g of kernels or 50-60 kernels at 2 mg HCN/g kernel)
Cradle cap is a yellowish, patchy, greasy, scaly and crusty skin rash that occurs on the scalp of recently born babies. It is usually not itchy, and does not bother the baby. Cradle cap most commonly begins sometime in the first 3 months. Similar symptoms in older children are more likely to be dandruff than cradle cap. The rash is often prominent around the ear, the eyebrows or the eyelids. It may appear in other locations as well, where it is called seborrhoeic dermatitis rather than cradle cap. Some countries use the term pityriasis capitis for cradle cap. It is extremely common, with about half of all babies affected. Most of them have a mild version of the disorder. Severe cradle cap is rare. CLICK & SEE
It’s not due to poor hygiene and isn’t contagious or an allergy. Cradle cap tends to run in families, so there may be a genetic predisposition.
Cradle cap usually resolves on its own within a few months. Self-care measures, such as washing your baby’s scalp daily with a mild shampoo, can help loosen and remove the cradle cap scales. If cradle cap persists or seems severe, your doctor may suggest a medicated shampoo, lotion or other treatment.
Common signs of cradle cap include:
*Plaques over large area
*Greasy, oily areas of skin
*Skin scales — white and flaking, or yellowish, oily, and adherent — “dandruff”
*Itching — may become more itchy if infected
*Patchy scaling or thick crusts on the scalp
*Greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales
*Skin flakes or dandruff
*Possibly mild redness
Similar scales may also be present on the ears, eyelids, nose and groin.
Cradle cap is most common in newborns. It isn’t contagious and probably won’t bother your baby. In most cases, the condition isn’t itchy for infants.
Cradle cap is not caused by a bacterial infection, allergy, nor from poor hygiene. Doctors are not in agreement as to the causes, but the two most common hypotheses include fungal infection and overactive sebaceous glands.
In many cases, what is commonly called cradle cap is actually a fungal infection. This infection may be related to antibiotics given to the mother just before the infant’s birth, or the infection could be related to antibiotics routinely given to infants during the first week of life. Antibiotics kill both harmful bacteria as well as the helpful bacteria that prevent the growth of yeast, which is why people who are prone to fungal infections will often discover a fungal infection after taking a round of antibiotics. In infants, the fungus is mostly likely to appear on the scalp (cradle cap), diaper area (fungal diaper rash, jock itch), ear (fungal ear infection, or an ear infection that does not respond to antibiotics),or in the mouth (thrush).
Another common cause of cradle cap appears to be a common manifestation of biotin insufficiency. This may be due, in part, to the influence of biotin on fatty acid biosynthesis. Possibly it has to do with overactive sebaceous glands in the skin of newborn babies, due to the mother’s hormones still in the baby’s circulation. The glands release a greasy substance that makes old skin cells attach to the scalp instead of falling off as they dry. There may be a relationship with skin yeasts (Pityrosporum ovale, newly renamed Malassezia furfur). Seborrheic dermatitis is the adult version of cradle cap
SOME SIGNS OF WARNING:-
If the condition thickens, turns red and irritated, starts spreading, appears on other body parts, or if the baby develops thrush (fungal mouth infection), fungal ear infection (an ear infection that does not respond to antibiotics) or a persistent diaper rash, medical intervention is recommended.
Severe cases of cradle cap, especially with cracked or bleeding skin, can provide a place for bacteria to grow. If the cradle cap is caused by a fungal infection which has worsened significantly over days or weeks to allow bacterial growth (impetigo, most commonly), a combination treatment of antibiotics and antifungals may be necessary. Since it is difficult for a layperson to distinguish the difference between sebaceous gland cradle cap, fungal cradle cap, or either of these combined with a bacterial infection, medical advice should be sought if the condition appears to worsen.
Cradle cap is occasionally linked to immune disorders. If the baby is not thriving and has other problems (e.g. diarrhoea), a doctor should be consulted.
•Psychological distress, low self esteem, embarrassment
•Secondary bacterial or fungal infections
Treatment other than gentle washing is not necessary in most mild cases (flaking, with or without small patches of yellow crusting), as the problem often resolves itself whether the cause is sebaceous-gland-related or fungal, but since many patients (and/or parents) are concerned about cosmetic issues, the following options are often considered:
-For all ages: Home remedies include the application of various oils, lotions, or petroleum jelly. There is little adequate or controlled research to support or negate the usefulness of most common home remedies at any age, but there is anecdotal evidence to support either position. When cradle cap is related to fungal infection, treatment for other fungal infections can also work. Tinea capitis is one example of a fungal cause. Doctors may prescribe a seven-day daily application of clotrim (commonly prescribed for jock itch or athlete’s foot) or miconazol nitrate (commonly prescribed for vaginal yeast infections).
-For infants: in cases that are related to fungal infection, doctors may recommend once-daily application of clotrim (1%) or miconozal nitrate (2%) for seven to fourteen days.
-Application of lavender oil may be helpful for fungal infection.
-For toddlers: doctors may recommend a treatment with a mild dandruff shampoo such as Selsun Blue or Neutrogena T-gel, even though the treatment may cause initial additional scalp irritation. A doctor may instead prescribe an antifungal soap such as ketoconazole (2%) shampoo, which can work in a single treatment and shows significantly less irritation than over-the-counter shampoos such as selenium sulfide shampoos, but no adequate and controlled study has been conducted for pediatric use as of 2010.
-For adults: Seborrheic dermatitis (the adult version of cradle cap) usually requires the use of an antifungal shampoo, possibly along with the nightly application of an antifungal cream or an anti-itch cream/gel like Scalpicin. Some doctors also recommend the supplementation of a B-vitamin complex to improve fatty acid metabolism..
Scalp, behind ears, eyebrows:
The common home remedy of applying oil (vegetable, particularly olive oil, or mineral oil) liberally to the scalp and letting it soak in overnight or for lesser periods of time seems to conflict with the fact that Malassezia yeasts thrive in oily environments preferring saturated fats, although anecdotal reports suggest it may be effective. This may be because olive oil is primarily unsaturated fat and does not promote fungal growth. If the cradle cap is not severe, you may try to comb it out gently after bathing. The softened scales can then be brushed away with a soft brush, comb or cloth, but if not done very gently, this can worsen the condition and bring about temporary hair loss. There has been no studies done on these recommendations. Applying petroleum jelly (e.g., Vaseline) liberally overnight is another popular treatment. The softened scales either fall off during the night, or can be brushed off in the morning. Making a paste from sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and leaving it on the affected area for 10 minutes can also help lift the scales. [amazon_link asins=’B00EB4OMIM,B00EB4OKVG’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’finmeacur-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’94e2006a-2270-11e7-8927-ada705c15d17′]
There is broad disagreement regarding the role of shampoos. Some sources warn against frequent shampooing, others recommend it. Mild baby shampoo is often recommended, while never specifying what “mild” actually means. Baby shampoos often contain detergent surfactants, perfumes, quaternium-15 and other eczemagenic irritants. Again, no studies have been performed on non-prescription shampoos.
Keratolytic (dandruff) shampoos (e.g. with sulfur, selenium, zinc pyrithione, or salicylic acid) are generally not recommended as they sting eyes and may worsen the dermatitis. In stubborn cases some doctors do recommend them while others warn against the use of medicated shampoos in newborns due to systemic absorption. Dandruff shampoos often contain sodium dodecyl sulfate, a noted skin irritant.
Steroid and tar preparations have also been used but have significant drawbacks. Immunomodulators (tacrolimus/Protopic, pimecrolimus/Elidel) have not been approved for babies under two years.
Ketoconazole shampoos and creams are taking first place in medical treatment of moderate to serious cradle cap. Research so far indicates that this anti-fungal medication is not absorbed into the bloodstream. Ketoconazole shampoo is currently made with a number of problematic irritants and allergens.
A Swedish study found good results from massaging the scalp with small amounts of borage oil twice a day.
Other home remedies recommended in various alternative sources and parent forums are herbal washes (e.g. burdock or chamomile), aloe gel, and tea tree oil (Melaleuca oil) shampoo. Tea tree oil and aloe can be sensitizers; any worsening should be an occasion to discontinue the remedy in question. Both remedies have been tested in medical trials and found useful.
Eyelids:…….click & see
Typical medical advice is to use diluted baby shampoo on a cotton swab to cleanse the eyelid. There is no agreement on the dilution, which ranges from a few drops to a half cup warm water, to a 50/50 mix. No studies have been performed on the efficacy or safety of this treatment. (Please note the problems with baby shampoo noted above.) In adults, a study comparing soap and baby shampoo to commercial eyelid scrubs found that patients strongly preferred not to put soap or shampoo on their eyelids. Baking soda has also been recommended (a teaspoonful in a cup of boiled water) and is well accepted by adults. Boiled warm water wash may help.
As the baby matures this conditions will be cleared.However, studies have shown that the condition occasionally persists into the toddler years, and less commonly into later childhood. It tends to recur in adolescence and persists into adulthood. In an Australian study, about 15 percent of previously diagnosed children still had eczema 10 years later. Sometimes, cradle cap turns into atopic dermatitis. Rarely, it turns out to be misdiagnosed psoriasis.
Shampooing your baby’s hair every few days can help prevent cradle cap. Stick with a mild baby shampoo unless your baby’s doctor recommends something stronger.
The severity of cardle cap can be lessened by controlling the risk factors and by paying careful attention to skin care.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.
With age, who would not prefer to avoid poor eyesight, cognitive decline, dementia, cancer, diabetes, or death from a sudden heart attack? People would also prefer to have strong bones resistant to fracture and be looked after by healthy children.
The Inuits of Greenland (Eskimos), the Alaskans and the Japanese seem to enjoy all these benefits. Scientific research has zeroed in on the one thing these populations have in common: their staple diet protein was obtained from fish.
The human body cannot synthesise EFAs. They have to be obtained from dietary sources. Vegetarians get their quota of EFA in the form of omega-6 fatty acids from whole grains, sprouts, flaxseeds, soyabeans, walnuts, leafy green vegetables and legumes like beans. But this is slightly different in chemical composition from the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.
The benefits of eating fish begin to appear when 60gm of fish are taken at least once a week. The benefits plateau if the consumption is more.
Combined with soya nuggets, nuts and legumes, when both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are obtained, the benefits increase. The optimal ratio for maximal health benefits is 4:1 (omega-6:omega-3).
Fish are also an excellent source of protein. A hundred grams of cooked fish provide 20gm of protein, which is a third of the daily requirement. Fish protein, which is of high quality, is lower in fat content than mutton or chicken, and contains minerals like iron, zinc and calcium.
In pregnant women, seafood provides DHA which decreases the chances of preterm birth, improves visual acuity and helps optimise the development of the nervous system in the unborn child. During lactation, it reduces the incidence of post partum depression and provides DHA to the baby.
We have polluted our earth and the seabeds are contaminated with mercury. This liquid metal is present in fish too. Excess exposure to mercury can harm the development of the nervous system of a baby. Pregnant and lactating mothers should, therefore, limit their intake of fish to 400gm a week.
Not everyone can eat fish. While some are vegetarians, others may be allergic. Or fish may just not be available. The pharmaceutical industry markets supplements of cod liver oil, fish oil and omega-3 fatty acid as capsules and tonics. These, along with other lipid lowering medicines like statins, can be taken to potentiate (enhance) their effect. DHA has also been added to health drinks and to fortified infant formulae. The claim is that the benefits are provided without the toxins, to improve outcome in heart disease, lower blood pressure, optimise lipid levels, reduce inflammation and improve immunity. The claim extends to helping in chronic diseases like diabetes, epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis, fighting depression, relieving asthma, preventing eczema and producing intelligent children with good visual acuity.
Capsulated EFAs are processed and bottled basically for convenience and commercial advantage. The purity, strength or safety of the products and their effects may vary. Product labels therefore must be read carefully. Prescribed medication should not be discontinued in favour of these supplements. People who are allergic to fish or nuts should exercise caution if they are planning to take these products.
Omega-3 fatty acids should be used only as an adjunct and not as a substitute for a healthy diet and regular exercise. Their actions in the prevention of cardiovascular disease are still controversial. Their superiority to current drugs is also disputed. Despite all the hype about these capsules and supplements, studies have not yet conclusively proven that they are superior to natural sources of EFAs. The superiority of breast milk is undisputed and it remains the best for the baby.
An overdose of these supplements can be dangerous, as it can produce vitamin D toxicity, bleeding, diarrhoea and leg cramps. This can also potentiate the effects of diabetic medications and insulin, causing blood sugar levels to drop. .
Fish do make a difference. Research has proved that even if you don’t eat fish, keeping an aquarium reduces stress and blood pressure, helps in Alzheimer’s and calms hyperactive children with attention deficit disorder. It does not even have to be a real aquarium. Watching a virtual one, a DVD with moving fish or even having a screen saver with fish has equal benefits at home and in the work place.
There is a clear medical benefit to association with fish, whether you are a “fish eater” or a “fish watcher”.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published three studies investigating the role of EPA and DHAomega-3 fats in elderly populations.
In short, the story the studies tell is this: low concentrations of EPA and DHA result in an increased risk of death from all causes and accelerated cognitive decline. However, short-term intervention with EPA and DHA in the healthy elderly had no effect on mental well-being, suggesting that dietary habits that include a higher intake of omega 3’s may bring certain health benefits that short-term supplementation cannot provide.
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are essential to human health but cannot be manufactured by the body. For this reason, omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained from food. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other marine life such as algae and krill, certain plants (including purslane), and nut oils. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) at least 2 times a week. It is advised that pregnant women and mothers, nursing mothers, young children, and women who might become pregnant not eat several types of fish, including swordfish, shark, and king mackerel. These individuals should also limit consumption of other fish, including albacore tuna, salmon, and herring. They can take omega-3 fatty acids in quality dietary supplements that are certified mercury-free by a reputable third-party lab.
There are three major types of omega 3 fatty acids that are ingested in foods and used by the body: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Once eaten, the body converts ALA to EPA and DHA, the two types of omega-3 fatty acids more readily used by the body. Extensive research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. These essential fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be particularly important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include extreme tiredness (fatigue), poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
It is important to maintain an appropriate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) in the diet, as these two substances work together to promote health. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and most omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. An inappropriate balance of these essential fatty acids contributes to the development of disease while a proper balance helps maintain and even improve health. A healthy diet should consist of roughly 2 – 4 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. The typical American diet tends to contain 14 – 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, and many researchers believe this imbalance is a significant factor in the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the United States.
In contrast, however, the Mediterranean diet consists of a healthier balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and many studies have shown that people who follow this diet are less likely to develop heart disease. It also contains another fatty acid, omega-9 fatty acids, which have been reported to help lower risks associated with cancer and heart disease. The Mediterranean diet does not include much meat (which is high in omega-6 fatty acids) and emphasizes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic, as well as moderate wine consumption.
Clinical studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful in treating a variety of health conditions. The evidence is strongest for heart disease and problems that contribute to heart disease, but the range of possible uses for omega-3 fatty acids include.
Those who follow a Mediterranean-style diet tend to have higher high density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” )cholesterol levels. Similar to those who follow a Mediterranean diet, Inuit Eskimos, who consume high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish, also tend to have increased HDL cholesterol and decreased triglycerides (fatty material that circulates in the blood). In addition, fish oil supplements containing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been reported in several large clinical studies to reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Finally, walnuts (which are rich in alpha linolenic acid or ALA) have been reported to lower total cholesterol and triglycerides in individuals with high cholesterol levels.
High blood pressure
Several clinical studies suggest that diets or supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure significantly in individuals with hypertension. An analysis of 17 clinical studies using fish oil supplements found that supplementation with 3 or more grams of fish oil daily can lead to significant reductions in blood pressure in individuals with untreated hypertension.
One of the best ways to help prevent and treat heart disease is to eat a low-fat diet and to replace foods rich in saturated and trans-fat with those that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3 fatty acids). Clinical evidence suggests that EPA and DHA found in fish oil help reduce risk factors for heart disease including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. There is also strong evidence that these substances can help prevent and treat atherosclerosis by inhibiting the development of plaque and blood clots, each of which tends to clog arteries. Clinical studies of heart attack survivors have found that daily omega-3 fatty acid supplements dramatically reduce the risk of death, subsequent heart attacks, and stroke. Similarly, people who eat an ALA-rich diet are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack.
Strong evidence from population-based clinical studies suggests that omega-3 fatty acid intake (primarily from fish) helps protect against stroke caused by plaque buildup and blood clots in the arteries that lead to the brain. In fact, eating at least 2 servings of fish per week can reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 50%. However, people who eat more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day (equivalent to 3 servings of fish per day) may be at an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke, a potentially fatal type of stroke in which an artery in the brain leaks or ruptures.
Individuals with diabetes tend to have high triglyceride and low HDL levels. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can help lower triglycerides and apoproteins (markers of diabetes), and raise HDL, so people with diabetes may benefit from eating foods or taking supplements that contain DHA and EPA. ALA (from flaxseed, for example) may not have the same benefit as DHA and EPA because some people with diabetes lack the ability to efficiently convert ALA to a form of omega-3 fatty acids that the body can use readily. There have been slight increases reported in fasting blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes while taking fish oil supplements.
Many individuals who are overweight suffer from poor blood sugar control, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Clinical studies suggest that overweight people who follow a weight loss program that includes exercise tend to achieve better control over their blood sugar and cholesterol levels when fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, mackerel, and herring) is a staple in their low-fat diet.
Most clinical studies investigating the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for inflammatory joint conditions have focused almost entirely on rheumatoid arthritis. Several articles reviewing the research in this area conclude that omega-3 fatty acid supplements reduce tenderness in joints, decrease morning stiffness, and allow for a reduction in the amount of medication needed for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
In addition, laboratory studies suggest that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids (and low in the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids) may benefit people with other inflammatory disorders, such as osteoarthritis. In fact, several test tube studies of cartilage-containing cells have found that omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation and reduce the activity of enzymes that destroy cartilage. Similarly, New Zealand green lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus), another potential source of omega-3 fatty acids, has been reported to reduce joint stiffness and pain, increase grip strength, and enhance walking pace in a small group of people with osteoarthritis. In some participants, symptoms worsened before they improved.
An analysis was conducted of 17 randomized, controlled clinical trials assessing the pain relieving effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis or joint pain caused by inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) and painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea). The results suggest that omega-3 fatty acids are effective treatment, along with conventional therapies such as anti-inflammatory drugs, for joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and dysmenorrhea.
Clinical studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA help increase levels of calcium in the body, deposit calcium in the bones, and improve bone strength. In addition, studies also suggest that people who are deficient in certain essential fatty acids (particularly EPA and gamma-linolenic acid [GLA], an omega-6 fatty acid) are more likely to suffer from bone loss than those with normal levels of these fatty acids. In a study of women over 65 with osteoporosis, those given EPA and GLA supplements experienced significantly less bone loss over 3 years than those who were given a placebo. Many of these women also experienced an increase in bone density.
People who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids or do not maintain a healthy balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in their diet may be at an increased risk for depression. The omega-3 fatty acids are important components of nerve cell membranes. They help nerve cells communicate with each other, which is an essential step in maintaining good mental health. In particular, DHA is involved in a variety of nerve Cell processes.
Levels of omega-3 fatty acids were found to be measurably low and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids were particularly high in a clinical study of patients hospitalized for depression. In a clinical study of individuals with depression, those who ate a healthy diet consisting of fatty fish 2 – 3 times per week for 5 years experienced a significant reduction in feelings of depression and hostility.
In a clinical study of 30 people with bipolar disorder, those who were treated with EPA and DHA (in combination with their usual mood stabilizing medications) for 4 months experienced fewer mood swings and recurrence of either depression or mania than those who received placebo. Another 4-month long clinical study treating individuals with bipolar depression and rapid cycling bipolar disorder did not find evidence of efficacy for the use of in EPA in these patients.
Preliminary clinical evidence suggests that people with schizophrenia experience an improvement in symptoms when given omega-3 fatty acids. However, a recent well-designed study concluded that EPA supplements are no better than placebo in improving symptoms of this condition. The conflicting results suggest that more research is needed before conclusions can be drawn about the benefit of omega-3 fatty acids for schizophrenia. Similar to diabetes, individuals with schizophrenia may not be able to convert ALA to EPA or DHA efficiently.
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have low levels of certain essential fatty acids (including EPA and DHA) in their bodies. In a clinical study of nearly 100 boys, those with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids demonstrated more learning and behavioral problems (such as temper tantrums and sleep disturbances) than boys with normal omega-3 fatty acid levels. In animal studies, low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower the concentration of certain brain chemicals (such as dopamine and serotonin) related to attention and motivation. Clinical studies that examine the ability of omega-3 supplements to improve symptoms of ADHD are still needed. At this point in time, eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids is a reasonable approach for someone with ADHD. A clinical study used omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplementation in 117 children with ADHD. They study found significant improvements in reading, spelling, and behavior in the children over the 3 months of therapy. Another clinical study found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation helped to decrease physical aggression in school children with ADHD. More studies, including comparisons with drug therapies (such as stimulants), should be performed.
Clinical studies suggest that men and women with anorexia nervosa have lower than optimal levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (including ALA and GLA). To prevent the complications associated with essential fatty acid deficiencies, some experts recommend that treatment programs for anorexia nervosa include PUFA-rich foods such as fish and organ meats (which include omega-6 fatty acids).
Essential fatty acids have been used to reduce inflammation and promote wound healing in burn victims. Animal research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids help promote a healthy balance of proteins in the body — protein balance is important for recovery after sustaining a burn. Further research is necessary to determine whether omega-3s benefit people in the same way.
In one clinical study, 13 people with a particular sensitivity to the sun known as photo dermatitis showed significantly less sensitivity to UV rays after taking fish oil supplements. Still, research indicates that topical sunscreens are much better at protecting the skin from damaging effects of the sun than omega-3 fatty acids. In another study of 40 people with psoriasis, those who were treated with medications and EPA supplements did better than those treated with the medications alone. In addition, many clinicians believe that flaxseed (which contains omega-3 fatty acids) is helpful for treating acne.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
When added to medication, such as sulfasalazine (a standard medication for IBD), omega-3 fatty acids may reduce symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis — the 2 types of IBD. More studies to investigate this preliminary finding are under way. In animals, it appears that ALA works better at decreasing bowel inflammation than EPA and DHA. Plus, fish oil supplements can cause side effects that are similar to symptoms of IBD (such as flatulence, belching, bloating, and diarrhea).
Clinical research suggests that omega-3 fatty acid supplements (in the form of perilla seed oil, which is rich in ALA) may decrease inflammation and improve lung function in adults with asthma. Omega-6 fatty acids have the opposite effect: they tend to increase inflammation and worsen respiratory function. In a small, well-designed clinical study of 29 children with asthma, those who took fish oil supplements rich in EPA and DHA for 10 months had improvement in their symptoms compared to children who took a placebo pill.
A questionnaire administered to more than 3,000 people over the age of 49 found that those who consumed more fish in their diet were less likely to have macular degeneration (a serious age-related eye condition that can progress to blindness) than those who consumed less fish. Similarly, a clinical study comparing 350 people with macular degeneration to 500 without the eye disease found that those with a healthy dietary balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and higher intake of fish in their diets were less likely to have this particular eye disorder. Another larger clinical study confirms that EPA and DHA from fish, 4 or more times per week, may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration. Notably, however, this same study suggests that ALA may actually increase the risk of this eye condition.
In a clinical study of nearly 200 Danish women, those with the highest dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids had the mildest symptoms, such as hot flashes and increased sweating, during menstruation.
Consuming significant amounts of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids appears to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. For example, Eskimos, who tend to follow a high-fat diet but eat significant amounts of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, have a low rate of colorectal cancer. Animal studies and laboratory studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids prevent worsening of colon cancer while omega-6 fatty acids promote the growth of colon tumors. Daily consumption of EPA and DHA also appeared to slow or even reverse the progression of colon cancer in people with early stages of the disease.
Clinical studies have reported that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the body are a marker for an increased risk of colon cancer.
However, in an animal study of rats with metastatic colon cancer (in other words, cancer that has spread to other parts of the body such as the liver), omega-3 fatty acids actually promoted the growth of cancer cells in the liver. Until more information is available, it is best for people with advanced stages of colorectal cancer to avoid omega-3 fatty acid supplements and diets rich in this substance.
Although not all experts agree, women who regularly consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids over many years may be less likely to develop breast cancer. In addition, the risk of dying from breast cancer may be significantly less for those who eat large quantities of omega-3 from fish and brown kelp seaweed (common in Japan). This is particularly true among women who substitute fish for meat. The balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids appears to play an important role in the development and growth of breast cancer. Further research is still needed to understand the effect that omega-3 fatty acids may have on the prevention or treatment of breast cancer. For example, researchers speculate that omega-3 fatty acids in combination with other nutrients (namely, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, and coenzyme Q10) may prove to be of particular value for preventing and treating breast cancer.
Laboratory and animal studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids (specifically, DHA and EPA) may inhibit the growth of prostate cancer. Similarly, population based clinical studies of groups of men suggest that a low-fat diet with the addition of omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil help prevent the development of prostate cancer. Like breast cancer, the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids appears to be particularly important for reducing the risk of this condition. ALA, however, may not offer the same benefits as EPA and DHA. In fact, one recent clinical study evaluating 67 men with prostate cancer found that they had higher levels of ALA compared to men without prostate cancer. More research in this area is needed.
Although further research is needed, preliminary evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may also prove helpful in protecting against certain infections and treating a variety of conditions, including autism, ulcers, migraine headaches, preterm labor, emphysema, psoriasis, glaucoma, Lyme disease, systemic lupus erythmatosus (lupus), irregular heart beats (arrhythmias), multiple sclerosis, and panic attacks. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may also help to reduce stress and the effects it has on the body.
Fish, plant, and nut oils are the primary dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, tuna, and herring. ALA is found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, purslane, perilla seed oil, walnuts, and walnut oil. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include sea life such as krill and algae.
In addition to the dietary sources described, EPA and DHA can be taken in the form of fish oil capsules. Flaxseed, flaxseed oil, fish and krill oils should be kept refrigerated. Whole flaxseeds must be ground within 24 hours of use, otherwise the ingredients lose their activity. Flaxseeds are also
available in ground form in a special mylar package so that the components in the flaxseeds stay active.
Be sure to buy omega-3 fatty acid supplements made by established companies who certify that their products are free of heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium.
How to Take It
Dosing for fish oil supplements should be based on the amount of EPA and DHA in the product, not on the total amount of fish oil. Supplements vary in the amounts and ratios of EPA and DHA. A common amount of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil capsules is 0.18 grams (180 mg) of EPA and 0.12 grams (120 mg) of DHA. Five grams of fish oil contains approximately 0.17 – 0.56 grams (170 -560 mg) of EPA and 0.072 – 0.31 grams (72 – 310 mg) of DHA. Different types of fish contain variable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and different types of nuts or oil contain variable amounts of a-linolenic acid. Fish oils contain approximately 9 calories per gram of oil.
Children (18 years and younger)
The precise safe and effective doses of all types of omega-3 fatty acid supplements in children have not been established. Omega-3 fatty acids are used in some infant formulas, although effective doses are not clearly established. Ingestion of fresh fish should be limited in young children due to the presence of potentially harmful environmental contaminants, including mercury. Fish oil capsules should not be used in children except under the direction of a health care provider.
Individuals taking more than 3 grams daily of omega-3 fatty acids from capsules should do so only under the supervision of a health care provider due to an increase risk of bleeding.
For healthy adults with no history of heart disease: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish at least 2 times per week.
For adults with coronary heart disease: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (as fish oils), 1 gram daily of EPA and DHA. It may take 2 – 3 weeks for benefits of fish oil supplements to be seen.
For adults with high cholesterol levels: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (as fish oils), 2 – 4 grams daily of EPA and DHA. It may take 2 – 3 weeks for benefits of fish oil supplements to be seen.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
Omega-3 fatty acids should be used cautiously by people who bruise easily, have a bleeding disorder, or take blood-thinning medications, including warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidogrel (Plavix), because excessive amounts of omega-3 fatty acids may lead to bleeding. In fact, people who eat more than three grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day (equivalent to 3 servings of fish per day) may be at an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke, a potentially fatal condition in which an artery in the brain leaks or ruptures.
Fish oil can cause flatulence, bloating, belching, and diarrhea. Time-release preparations may reduce these side effects, however.
People with either diabetes or schizophrenia may lack the ability to convert alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the forms more readily used in the body. Therefore, people with these conditions should obtain their omega-3 fatty acids from dietary sources rich in EPA and DHA. Also, individuals with type 2 diabetes may experience increases in fasting blood sugar levels while taking fish oil supplements. If you have type 2 diabetes, only use fish oil supplements under the supervision of a health care provider.
Although studies have found that regular consumption of fish (which includes the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA) may reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a recent study including 2 large groups of men and women found that diets rich in ALA may substantially increase the risk of this disease. More research is needed in this area. Until this information becomes available, it is best for people with macular degeneration to obtain omega-3 fatty acids from sources of EPA and DHA, rather than ALA.
Similar to macular degeneration, fish and fish oil may protect against prostate cancer, but ALA may be associated with increased risk of prostate cancer in men. More research in this area is needed.
Fish (and fish oil supplements) may contain potentially harmful contaminants, such as heavy metals (including mercury), dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). For sport-caught fish, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that intake be limited in pregnant or nursing women to a single 6-ounce meal per week, and in young children to less than 2 ounces per week. For farm-raised, imported, or marine fish, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that pregnant or nursing women and young children avoid eating types with higher levels of mercury (such as mackerel, shark, swordfish, or tilefish), and less than 12 ounces per week of other fish types. Unrefined fish oil preparations may contain pesticides.
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use omega-3 fatty acid supplements, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), without first talking to your health care provider.
Blood-thinning medications — Omega-3 fatty acids may increase the effects of blood thinning medications, including aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and clopedigrel (Plavix). While the combination of aspirin and omega-3 fatty acids may actually be helpful under certain circumstances (such as in heart disease), they should only be taken together under the guidance and supervision of a health care provider.
Blood sugar lowering medications — Taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements may increase fasting blood sugar levels. Use with caution if taking blood sugar lowering medications, such as glipizide (Glucotrol and Glucotrol XL), glyburide (Micronase or Diabeta), glucophage (Metformin), or insulin, as omega-3 fatty acid supplements may increase your need for the medication(s).
Cyclosporine — Taking omega-3 fatty acids during cyclosporine (Sandimmune) therapy may reduce toxic side effects, such as high blood pressure and kidney damage, associated with this medication in transplant patients.
Etretinate and topical steroids — The addition of omega-3 fatty acids (specifically EPA) to the drug therapy etretinate (Tegison) and topical corticosteroids may improve symptoms of psoriasis.
Cholesterol-lowering medications — Following certain nutritional guidelines, including increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet and reducing the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, may allow a group of cholesterol lowering medications known as “statins”, including atorvastatin (Liptor), lovastatin (Mevacor), and simvastatin (Zocor) to work more effectively.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — In an animal study, treatment with omega-3 fatty acids reduced the risk of ulcers from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) and naproxen (Alleve or Naprosyn). More research is needed to evaluate whether omega-3 fatty acids would have the same effects in people.